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The Sea Otter Classic attracts thousands of brands from across the bike industry, and this year is proving that in spades. In part one of our reportage from the 2023 event, Evan Christenson digs up a dozen interesting finds, including bikepacking bags from Osprey, Taco Pedals from Simworks, and much more…
The Kettle Korn booths are smoking and the lines are long this year. Sea Otter is packed. The booths are crawling, the bikes are shiny, and the kids are fighting tooth and nail for free stickers. It feels good to come back to the chaos of the Sea Beaver. I’ve been in Mexico for the past six months, and this serves as a familiarly intense return to the United States. California is a gentle hug. Consumerism feels like home. Entonces… These are my favorite things I found today.
Joshua Muir from Frances Cycles showing off his dog-carrying cargo bike.
We’re blessed with genuinely good people in the cycling world, people who spend time in nature, people going slow and tapping into their own communities, people packed with endorphins, and Danny Wilson is one of them. He lured me into his booth with his infectious smile, and his intimidating handshake made me stay. Danny was a former professional football player, a nose tackle for the Green Bay Packers. But when that ended, he started riding bikes to lose weight. He’s lost 80 pounds already, and loves riding in the Texas area on group rides and fondos and the occasional race. He’s happy at his first Sea Otter. He looks around excitedly at the bikes and the unfamiliar riders rolling past.
Danny was on a ride when he had the idea for his new company. He saw new riders fumbling in their jersey pockets and crashing or dropping their chapstick when reaching for an energy bar. To Danny, chapstick is all important, the thing that keeps the ride together, the highlighter for those shimmering teeth (for me, it’s a great tool to fix a tired bike pump). Danny designed this chapstick holder to keep his chapstick available at all times of the bike ride, and the chapstick doesn’t need the cap, so you pull it out, apply, and put it back. I was pretty excited to use mine as a pants tie.
Ten percent of proceeds are donated to charity. Danny’s favorite is one that works with kids with Dyslexia. “I didn’t find out I was dyslexic until I was in college. I thought I was dumb all my life!” His website should be live next week. Stay tuned!
Hudski was my favorite booth last year. Their wabi-sabi art booth was the perfect way to break up the incessant batting of the pen flags. This year, they brought an old Vitamaster stationary bike that powers a rotating platform to attach paper to.
Tree, the legendary bike mechanic, pedals it, and we creatives dump in paint to perfectly express our inner demons. Or something like that. Hudski was also showing off their new budget-friendly Doggler. Now retailing for $1,600, it comes with a Deore drivetrain and no dropper post but still features the great geometry and frame we’ve come to love.
The Sierra Recycler
Paul Components and Sierra Nevada Brewing once again collaborated to put together a bike to raise money for a non-profit. This year, it’s Outdoor Alliance, a sort of collective for nature conservancy and advocacy. They’ve come up with this thing to better align with the non-profit and inspire conversations on recycling.
It’s a hot-rodded 1949 Schwinn Cruiser modified by Cjell from Mone bikes, and it featuring Paul and White and Velocity parts and recycled Sierra Nevada banners for bags made by Outer Shell. You can learn more and donate $5 or more via the post in the Related Content grid at the bottom of this post.
Osprey Bikepacking Bags
Osprey gave me a sneak peek at their new bikepacking line, which is coming to market later this year. It’s made of 100% recycled, TPU-coated ripstop nylon and is IPX6 waterproof rated. They have a handlebar harness, seat bag harness, gas tank, and frame bags (a wedge and three sizes of half-framebags).
Apparently, Osprey began with Mike Pfotenhauer making panniers in his garage back in the 1970s. He just sold the company to a consumer goods conglomerate for 414 million dollars. So keep going, all you cottage makers!
It was good to run into the crew from SimWorks at the Chris King Open House. They were showing off their new products, including the Burrito Rack, (made in Japan, $200), and the specially made “Extra Rice and Beans” bag. They were also displaying their new taco pedals, named after the curving taco shell that makes up the body ($98, available now).
Adventure Cycling Association
Adventure Cycling Association has a booth this year and will be giving a talk on Saturday about the Great Divide. I met Carolyne, who rode this Fargo down the Great Divide herself recently. She’s toured the entire PCH, the Florida Keys, and in New England as well. Carolyne loves traveling by bike. “Whenever I feel sad about humanity, I get on the bike and go touring and it all comes back. Humanity is good! It’s just the news that’s not.”
The resurgence of Ti
“Ti is definitely having a moment right now,” said one industry guy. It feels like there are even more beautiful titanium bikes this year too. Frame making is entering the arena of jewelry-making, and all integrated titanium gravel bikes feel like the epitome of that. I especially liked the Oddity in the Blackburn booth, the newly rebranded Revel El Jefe, and Nick and his super rad Alchemy.
Decathlon is in the US?
Decathlon has saved my butt twice while touring in Europe, and I was pretty surprised to see them here. I was even more surprised to learn they have been in the US for five years now. They’ve shut down their three stores in San Francisco, though, and have moved all of their sales online. They were showing off this new gravel bike and their house-brand bikepacking bags. The frame is handmade in Italy, and the complete bike retails for $4,000.
Aeroe showed off their prototype bottle cage add-on and new top deck pannier rack for their Spider rear rack. Both looked good! Miles reviewed the Spider some time ago, and you can also find that linked below.
Microshift had their new V2 ADVENT X groupset on display. I got to shift it a little too. The throws were a little heavy, but it shifted great. The rear derailleur is a solid piece of kit that just got even better in its second iteration. Learn the full rundown of the Advent X V.2 Derailleur here.
Selle San Marco
I also had no idea Selle San Marco made bikepacking bags as well. Apparently made in conjunction with Miss Grape, they’re all fabricated in Italy and were launched last December. There are products in total, including several framebags, the small handlebar roll, and 7L/13L saddlebags.
That’s it for my day one finds, but stay tuned for several more posts highlighting the most interesting bikes, products, and people from this year’s Sea Otter, which I’ll be wandering around for a few more days. And if there’s anything in particular that you’d like to see covered here, let us know in the comments below!
Above: Dan Stranahan from Forager Cycles showing off their Link Wrench
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